Editorial: Imagination gets a boost from old craft

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 05:48 PM

How refreshing it was on Wednesday to take a giant step back into time, to recall technology in a far different way.

When the Voyager twin spacecraft were launched, the country was just coming off a Bicentennial Celebration, Billy Beer was gaining popularity in the South and George Orwells’ “1984” was still either a good read or a prognostication.

A cyber shutdown for the new millennium wasn’t even thought about because, well, there was no Internet. Or cell phones. Or ESPN. Or even Prince’s song, “1999.”

In 1977, Voyager 1 began its journey north from the sun and is currently more than 11 billion miles away. Voyager 2 is headed south from the sun, currently more than 9 billion miles away. The spacecraft may be cold, as is maybe even our memory of them, but their new information remains the hottest.

More than 35 years later, Voyager 1 flew into the news this week with a report it may have left the solar system. That would mean beyond the influence of the sun, into interstellar space. The report was accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

However, NASA is aware of the report and issued a statement Wednesday. Edward Stone, speaking for the NASA team from the California Institute of Technology, said Voyager 1 had not left or reached interstellar space. He said it was actually in a region called “the magnetic highway.”

As cool as that sounds, make no mistake, NASA is looking forward to Voyager getting to interstellar space.

Somewhere between the non-dinner table conversation space words in the report and in the response from NASA, we’re drawn to imagination, just as we were in the 1960s and ’70s. Since inception in 1958, NASA’s accomplishments have been incredible.

The space race continues to change and evolve. But it is a bit of a head-scratcher to think something built so long ago could still be working and working well.

We’re faster-paced now. We measure our gadgets’ usability in months, don’t want to wait for practically anything, including the next thing to make our lives better.

A spacecraft leaving our solar system to tell us what else is in the Milky Way? Hard to imagine, but awfully good to know, and fuel for more gazes into the sky.